Firefighters from all over the country ready to deploy to Wallow Fire

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by Tess Rafols and Catherine Holland

Bio | Email | Follow: @Tess3TV

azfamily.com

Posted on June 6, 2011 at 6:52 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 9 at 4:02 PM

Map: Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport

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MESA, Ariz. -- Firefighters from all over the country are gearing up to deploy to the Wallow Fire burning in Eastern Arizona, and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is the hub of operations that could be running 24-seven as soon as today.

The Phoenix Interagency Fire Center, which is based at Gateway Airport, is where every firefighter from out of state checks in. They stage here, waiting to be sent to the fire lines. It's also the base for an air tanker, which right now is in the White Mountains fighting the Wallow Fire.

Crews have been coming into Arizona for the last several weeks, since firefighters needed help in controlling the Horseshoe Two Fire, which is burning near Portal. But now, many of the resources are being sent to the eastern part of the state to battle the Wallow Fire.

So far, at least 2,000 firefighters from all over the nation have been dispatched. They've come from the Colorado, Nevada, the Northwest, and even as far away as Florida. Many more are expected to arrive in Arizona over the coming days and weeks.

"You do have to be ready," said Christina McKerracher with the Phoenix Interagency Fire Center. "Right now we are rotating eight 20-man crews."

Once dispatched, crews are on the fire lines for 14 days. They are then rested and relieved by another crew. After a day of rest, firefighters can be sent out once again.

Up until now, firefighters staged at the Fire Center during the day. Anyone who is not out on the fire lines checked into a local hotel until the next day and operations shutdown for the night.  But because the Wallow Fire has now grown to nearly 200,000 acres, the center is prepared to go into a 24-hour mode.

It's a harsh indicator of what's to come with this explosive fire that's keeping folks in the eastern part of Arizona on pins and needles.

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